Today is International Anti-Corruption Day. It is an opportunity for the world to recommit to collective action in preventing and addressing corruption, as we reflect on the devastating consequences of COVID-19 on governance institutions, the economy, and society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed decades of progress on development with poverty and inequality rising at a global scale. Half of the world – four billion people – are trying to survive COVID-19 without any social protection, and two out of three COVID-19 deaths are in developing countries.
The pandemic is leading to declines in global human development and could push the number of people living in extreme poverty to over one billion by 2030, while corruption is undermining our efforts to respond and recover.
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic create enormous opportunities for corruption to thrive, when safeguards are relaxed under emergency protocols, and oversight mechanisms weakened or disrupted as a response to COVID-19.
As a result, corruption risks are unprecedented, including price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators, falsified medicines that compromise the safety of patients, and undue preferential treatment in the distribution of vaccines and healthcare services.
Apart from the impact on health, corruption distorts the allocation of stimulus packages to rebuild economies, and undermines the roll-out of social safety nets for those who are most at risk of being left behind.
Now more than ever, corruption is standing in the way of sustainable development. Every year, businesses and individuals pay an estimated US$1.5 trillion in bribes, while at least US$500 billion is lost to corruption in the health sector annually, more than the total cost of global Universal Health Coverage.
Corruption not only directs valuable resources away from financing development and recovery efforts, it could lead to a downward spiral of eroding public trust and social cohesion, undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Amid the devastating crisis, countries have opportunities to reimagine development pathways and build forward better. This year’s International Anti-Corruption Day theme ‘Recover with Integrity’ emphasises the urgent need for countries to ensure that anti-corruption is an integral part of all sustainable development efforts, to build greener economies, end poverty, invest in women’s empowerment and gender equality, provide Universal Healthcare Coverage, and foster resilient and inclusive institutions and societies.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)and many other organisations are working closely with countries to integrate transparency, accountability and anti-corruption both in the immediate response and in the longer term COVID-19 recovery.
Happy International Anti-Corruption Day!